CLIENT INFORMATION AND TERMS & CONDITIONS OF ENGAGEMENT
PLEASE READ THIS DOCUMENT CAREFULLY & RETAIN FOR YOUR INFORMATION
- Instructions and information
- Advice and action
- People responsible for your work
- Further help
- Charges, expenses, billing fee arrangements and funding
- Payment arrangements
- Documents & Confidentiality
- Money Laundering
- Client Identification
- Communication and suggestions
- The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013
- Professional Indemnity Insurance and limitations of liability
- Data Protection Act 1988
- Governing law and jurisdiction
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Sinclair Law Solicitors (Sinclair Law Solicitors, we, us, the firm) will be delighted to act for you in relation to your legal matter.
As a firm of Solicitors, we are obliged to provide clients with certain information about the way that their professional business is undertaken. Please find detailed below our standard terms and conditions, which set out the basis upon which we will carry out the work on your behalf.
We are authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority of England and Wales (SRA) (see www.sra.org.uk for further information). Our membership number is 563485. There is a lot of useful information on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s website and also that of the Law Society (see www.lawsociety.org.uk for further information) about Solicitors and how we operate. All of our lawyers are admitted as solicitors in England and Wales are regulated by the SRA. The firm is not authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If, while we are acting for you, you need advice on investments, we may refer you to someone who is authorised to provide the necessary advice.
We are registered for VAT with HM Revenue & Customs. Our VAT registration number is 120 6258 48.
This firm operates an Equality and Diversity Policy which complies with the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2011.
This document explains the basis on which all necessary work will be carried out. Whilst that does mean writing at some length, we hope the information will be useful.
In particular we refer you to sections 6, 7, 9, 10 and 16 below.
2. Instructions and Information
We shall be entitled to assume that whoever gives us instructions to provide services has actual authority to do so and we shall be entitled to rely on any information provided to us by that person. It is vital that you provide us with all relevant information and ensure that the information you provide is complete, accurate and up to date. If the information you provide changes at any time, you must inform us as soon as possible.
Where we are instructed by a director of a company or a member of an LLP, we shall be entitled to assume that these terms and our letter of engagement have been approved by the board of directors of the company or the members of the LLP.
Where we are instructed by one or more person or entity, each person or entity will be jointly and severally liable under these terms. Each person or entity irrevocably permits us to disclose to the other persons or entities any information we receive at any time, which might otherwise be prohibited from being disclosed under our duty of confidentiality.
3. Advice and Action
All clients are issued with an engagement letter which should be signed and returned to us before we can advise or undertake any work on their behalf. Each individual engagement letter will vary according to the precise instruction. Some of the basic conditions are summarised below. For the complete set of terms and conditions you should refer to the letter of engagement. If you continue to instruct us after we have sent these terms and our letter of engagement to you, you shall be deemed to have accepted these terms and the terms set out in our letter of engagement.
We shall set out any preliminary advice and/or plan of action in any covering letter or supplemental correspondence.
In our initial conversations / communications, we highlighted what your objectives are, the issue involved and options available to you and what we believe is the most appropriate action.
4. People responsible for your work
The details you need to know are as follows:
4.1 once we are instructed your matter shall be assigned to a Legal Advisor of Sinclair Law Solicitors;
4.2 once the matter is under way we will keep in touch with you, usually by email or telephone as it progresses;
4.3 we will endeavour to answer your telephone calls. However, because of work commitments, both in and out of the office during the day, your call may be dealt with by another member of the firm, as that will allow your enquiry to be dealt with as promptly as possible;
4.4 we will endeavour to update you with regards to the progress of your case every 28 days. There will be occasions where this may not be appropriate and we may telephone to discuss matters;
4.5 we try to avoid changing the people you are dealing with, but if it should seem appropriate at any stage for the matter to be referred, for all purposes, to another member of the team, we will explain why that is suggested and arrange for an introduction;
4.6 to help us keep in touch, please let us know as soon as possible if you change your address, telephone number or e-mail so that we can keep our records up to date. We would welcome hearing from you with any change of contact details, even when the matter is finished, as that will ensure we can continue to send you information about Sinclair Law Solicitors in the future, which we hope will continue to be of interest.
We hope this is all the information you need to ensure we are able to keep in touch with each other during this matter and in the future.
5. Further help
Whilst your matter progresses, it may be helpful to get some assistance from others outside Sinclair Law Solicitors. In particular:
5.1 it is usually helpful to involve experts who can advise on, and help deal with, certain aspects of the case;
5.2 it may become appropriate to instruct Counsel (a barrister) or another solicitor to advise or to represent you who specialises in particular areas of law;
5.3 we will let you know if it seems appropriate to seek this further assistance and let you have details of who is involved. Usually, any advice from these sources will be given in writing, though a meeting may be arranged if appropriate; and
5.4 the costs of instructing a third party shall be agreed in advance with you. These will be billed as disbursements.
6. Charges, expenses, billing, fee arrangements and funding
We time record the work that we do. The time recording is split into 10 units per hour i.e. one unit = 6 minutes, one hour is ten units and fractional units are rounded up to the next whole unit. We will let you know if there are any changes that affect you. We also offer fixed fee work where possible and appropriate.
We reserve the right to make a separate handling charge for photocopying where a substantial number of photocopies are made.
Fees are usually charged either (a) at hourly rate or (b) on a fixed fee basis. The basis of charging will be set out in writing for you. Our current hourly rates are:
Senior Solicitors, Partners & Consultants
£175 – £215
Fellows of Institute of Legal Executives, Licensed Conveyancers & Senior Executives
These fees are reviewed on 6th April each year.
If your instructions require that meetings take place or other work is carried out necessarily outside our normal office hours, we reserve the right to increase the level of hourly rate (by up to 50%) for such out of hours work.
We do not offer a “no win no fee” service.
It is sometimes difficult at this stage to provide you with an accurate estimate in relation to the amount of work that will be required on your case, and what the cost of that work will be. In litigation matters involving claims of over £5,000 you should be aware that if your case is successful, some, but not all of the charges and disbursements incurred on the case may be recoverable from the other side – but these are not guaranteed as ultimately a court will have to decide. In cases involving family proceedings, the general rule is that none of your costs will be recoverable from the other side.
If you are unsuccessful then as well as bearing your own costs, you may be liable to pay the costs of your opponent. The exception to this is in family proceedings where, unless the court determines that there has been “litigation misconduct” it is unlikely that you will have to pay your opponent’s costs. If the Court orders your opponent to pay costs, the amount will rarely exceed about 70% of our charges covered by the order. Whether you win or lose, instructing us to act for you in a court case will almost certainly cost you money. You agree to waive the provision of section 74(3) of the Solicitors Act 1974.
You may have legal expenses insurance to cover our charges and your opponent’s costs. You should check your existing policies, including household and motor insurance policies.
We may not need any further money on account of costs in the initial stages. However, as the work progresses, we may need to ask for such a payment if our exposure increases.
Payment of our invoices must be made within 14 days of our invoice being sent to you. We reserve the right to claim interest at the rate of 8% per annum. Such interest shall accrue on a daily basis from the due date until the actual payment of the overdue amount, whether before or after judgment.
Where our client is a business, notwithstanding the previous provisions of this paragraph, we may in the alternative claim interest at our discretion under the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.
As the instructing client, you are responsible for payment of our charges unless we have agreed with you in writing otherwise. This is so even if the bill is submitted to a third party, you are insured, someone else has agreed to pay your costs or the matter does not proceed to completion.
Our fees and charges are payable whether or not a case or transaction is successfully concluded or completed. We reserve the right to decline to continue acting on your behalf or to decline to complete a transaction if payment is not made.
If you are not happy with our costs or any of our invoices, please refer to our complaints procedure, referred to further below.
Fee Sharing – We operate fee sharing arrangements in relation to the provision of services in some matters. We make you aware that fee sharing arrangements may be relevant to your matter but these do not affect the fees charged or our independence.
Commissions –If we receive a commission from a third party arising from work we are doing for you, under the general law and our professional rules this money belongs to you unless you agree we can retain it. The commission arrangement will not affect the provision of our services to you and is not dependent on your agreement to waive the commission. Please sign and return the engagement letter as confirmation you are happy to waive the commission. If you are not happy to do this please contact us, however if we do not here from you we will presume you are happy for us to go ahead with the referral and we shall retain commission where appropriate. We would like you to note that in accepting commissions from third parties, we are able to offset some of our costs involved in the administration of your matter and therefore the benefit is passed to yourself.
7. Payment arrangements
7.1 Property transactions
We will normally send you our bill following the exchange of contracts and payment is required on a purchase prior to completion; and at completion on a sale. If sufficient funds are available on completion, and we have sent you a bill, we will deduct our charges and expenses from the funds.
7.2 Administration of estates
We will normally submit an interim bill at regular stages during the administration, starting with the obtaining of a Grant. The final account will be prepared when the Estate Accounts are ready for approval.
7.3 Other cases or transactions
It is normal practice to ask clients to pay interim bills and sums of money from time to time on account of the charges and expenses which are expected in the ensuing weeks or months. We find that this helps clients in budgeting for costs as well as keeping them informed of the legal expenses which are being incurred. If such requests are not met with prompt payment, delay in the progress of a case may result. In the unlikely event of any bill or request for payment not being met, the firm reserves the right to stop acting for you further.
The common law entitles us to retain any money, papers or other property belonging to you which properly come into our possession pending payment of our costs, whether or not the property is acquired in connection with the matter for which the costs were incurred. This is known as a ‘general lien’. We are not entitled to sell property held under a lien but we are entitled to hold property, other than money, even if the value of it greatly exceeds the amount due to us in respect of costs.
If we are conducting litigation for you, we have additional rights in any property recovered or preserved for you whether it is in our possession or not and in respect of all costs incurred, whether billed or unbilled. We also have a right to ask the court to make a charging order in our favour for any assessed costs.
We do not accept payments to us in cash in excess of £500. We accept personal cheques (which take up to 5 working days to clear), banker’s drafts and CHAPS payments. Monies due to you from us will be paid by cheque or bank transfer, but not in cash, and will not be made payable to a third party.
We are not authorised under the Financial Services & Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). We are, however, able in certain circumstances, to offer a limited range of services to clients because we are regulated by the SRA, including in relation to our carrying on any “exempt regulation activities” under the FSMA. As such, we are permitted to carry on a limited range of activities relating to investments and insurance mediation which may reasonably be regarded as a necessary part of our legal services. The scope of our engagement, however, does not and will not include giving you advice on the merits of entering into any particular investments or policy of insurance. When providing our services, we will assume that you have decided, or will decide to, negotiate and enter into any such transaction solely on the basis of your own evaluation of the same and any advice which you may received from a person authorised under the FSMA. We will not communicate, either to you or on your behalf, to any other person, any invitation or inducement to engage in investment or insurance activity, and nothing we write or say should be construed as such invitation or inducement.
8. Documents & Confidentiality
It is important that you keep all documents which relate in any way to your matter safe.
After completing the work, we are entitled to keep all papers and documents whilst there is money owing for charges and expenses. We keep papers (except for any papers you ask to be returned to you) for no more than 6 years and keep the file on the understanding that we have the authority to destroy it (automatically and without further recourse to you) after 6 years from the date of the final bill, although documents you ask to deposit in safe custody will not, of course, be destroyed.
If it becomes necessary to retrieve papers or documents from storage in relation to continuing or new instructions to act on your behalf, we would not normally charge for such retrieval. However, we will make a charge, based on time spent producing stored papers or documents to you or to another person at your request, in other circumstances. We may also charge for reading correspondence or other work necessary to comply with instructions given by you or on your behalf in this connection. Do note that we may engage third party agents to store documents on our behalf and that it can take up to 7-10 days in order to retrieve any archived documents.
Solicitors are under a professional and legal obligation to keep the affairs of the client confidential. This obligation, however, is subject to a statutory exception, as referred to below.
9. Money Laundering
Following the introduction of the Terrorism Act 2000 (as amended), the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 we are now obliged to request evidence of your identity and undertake certain other procedures to establish your credentials and the legitimacy of your instructions before acting upon them. These procedures may require us to take fuller instructions from you than previously, and may, in rare cases, introduce some small delays into your matter. We will in every case strive to keep these to a minimum. However, such is the strength of the obligation placed upon us that if satisfactory documentary evidence is not produced we may have to refuse to accept your instructions or decline to continue acting for you.
We may also have a legal obligation to report to the National Crime Agency (NCA) any information which comes to our attention concerning any matters covered by the money laundering legislation. If so, we may not be permitted to inform you or anyone else that we have done this. We may also be ordered by NCA to stop the work you have instructed us to carry out. If so we would not be able to inform you or anyone else why we have stopped work.
In addition to the above our files are subject to quality control and inspection audits for compliance from any accountant or auditor duly appointed by us, the Law Society, the Solicitors Regulation Authority or other law enforcement/ government authority.
Apart from the above, it is and remains our policy to keep all information about the personal and business affairs of our clients confidential and to complete your instructions with all due diligence and speed. Nevertheless, we cannot accept any liability or responsibility whatsoever for any losses, expenses, liabilities, or other detriment that you might suffer or incur as a result of our compliance with these obligations. This exclusion of our liability to you is fundamental to our retainer.
10. Client Identification
We are required to check the identity of clients that we act for and where a party exists that has a beneficial interest in the transaction- the identity of that beneficiary. An example of a situation where we need to establish the identity of someone who has a beneficial interest in a transaction would be where a company instructs us to undertake some work for it through its director/ secretary. The person who would have a beneficial interest in this matter would be a shareholder who has a 25% or more shares in that company. In such circumstances, we will require personal documentation to identify you that can include a current signed passport, photo-card driving licence, birth certificate or a recent utility bill and where you cannot produce the originals we require certified copies to be sent to us. The obligation imposed upon us to do this is as set out in the legislation referred to in section 6 above- particularly the Money Laundering Regulations 2007. This is important and fundamental to our retainer.
To comply with the law, we shall require sight of your current passport and/or photo driver’s licence, together with a utility bill or bank statement that has been issued to your address within the last three months. We may also verify your identity via an outside agency. We reserve the right to pass onto you any fees which we incur from such verification agencies. These fees will appear on your bill under expenses, and will be limited to £10 per verification search.
You may terminate your instructions in writing at any time, but we will be entitled to keep all your papers and documents while there is money owing for charges and expenses. We may also have to provide further evidence of your identity, the fees for which you will be liable and you will be informed of these before we carry out the check.
In some circumstances, you may consider that we ought to stop acting for you, for example if you cannot give clear or proper instructions on how to proceed, or if it is clear that you have lost confidence in how the work has been carried out.
In the event that we are instructed by one or more persons or entities, we may also cease acting for each party if any joint client terminates our services or if any conflict of interest arises between the joint clients.
We may only decide to stop acting for you with good reason, for example if we do not receive instructions from you or otherwise we do not have the assistance we need to progress your case properly or if costs are not paid on time to us. We will, however, always give reasonable notice before ceasing to act so that, if possible, any problems can be dealt with and we can continue to act on your behalf.
12. Communication and suggestions
We are confident of providing a high quality service.
We do, of course, welcome any suggestions you might wish to make which you think could help to improve our service.
If, at any time, you are not happy with the service you are receiving from us, do please let us know. You are valued by us and we should like the opportunity to put matters right if any problems do arise, relating to any aspect of the service we provide you, including our costs and invoices.
In the first instance, please contact the fee earner dealing with your matter and we will do what we can to resolve the problem promptly. If, however, we are not able to resolve the problem to your satisfaction you should then contact Ms Sandra Sinclair (unless the client care letter says otherwise in which case you should follow that procedure), who is responsible for Sinclair Law Solicitors’ complaints procedure, a copy of which can be provided to you on request.
If following a formal complaint pursuant to our complaints procedure, you are unhappy with our conclusion or in the unlikely event that we have not responded to your formal complaint within 8 weeks, you have the right to refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (see www.legalombudsman.org.uk for further information) at PO Box 6806, Wolverhampton WV1 9WJ You have up to six months in which to refer a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman.
If your complaint relates to our costs and invoices, you may also have the right to have your invoice assessed under Part III of the Solicitors’ Act 1974.
14. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013
If you are a private individual who has instructed the firm, during or following a visit by a member of the firm to your home or over the phone, in relation to a non-business matter, The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 (2013 Regulations) apply. Under the terms of the 2013 Regulations, you have the right to cancel your instructions to us without any cost to you within 14 working days of receipt of these terms and conditions.
However, if, following your instructions to start work on your matter straightaway, we begin work on your behalf immediately and we incur costs prior to receiving a notice of cancellation from you, cancellation will be subject to you paying for the services provided up to and including cancellation of the contract. By signing and returning our engagement letter, you are agreeing that the firm can start work straight away before the end of the cancellation period.
You can cancel your instructions by contacting us by post, by fax or by email to this office, for the attention of the person names in the accompanying engagement letter. Under the 2013 Regulations, we are deemed to receive a notice of cancellation as soon as it is posted or faxed to us, or in the case of email, the date on which is sent to us. We advise that you send any notice of cancellation to us by registered post so that you retain proof of postage. A form of cancellation notice appears at the end of these terms and conditions for your use, if required. However, we will accept any notice of cancellation, whether it is in the form attached or otherwise.
15. Professional Indemnity Insurance and limitations of liability
Our current level of insurance is three million pounds. We cap our liability at three million pounds.
We will notify you immediately, if we are prevented by circumstances beyond our control from providing services to you.
If, as a result of those circumstances, we are unable to meet a deadline or complete the services by the agreed date (or not at all):
15.1 such failure will not be a breach of contract by us;
15.2 we will not be liability for you for any such failure to the extent that we have notified you of the circumstances;
15.3 we will amend any estimate completion date or deadline accordingly. We shall not be responsible for any failure to provide services:
15.4 which fall outside the terms of our engagement (as set out or referred to in the engagement letter); or
15.5 as a result of your failure to provide us with correct and accurate information within a reasonable time period.
We shall not be liable for any indirect loss or damage (including without limitation any loss of profit or income) arising in any circumstances, whether in contract, ort, negligence, for breach of statutory duty or otherwise and howsoever caused.
Nothing in these terms shall exclude or restrict our liability arising for death, personal injury, negligent or fraudulent misrepresentation or in any other circumstance where our liability cannot be excluded or restricted under any applicable law or regulation.
16. Data Protection Act 1988
We use the information you provide primarily for the provision of legal services to you and for related purposes including:
16.1 updating and enhancing client records;
16.2 analysis to help us manage our practice statutory returns;
16.3 legal and regulatory compliance;
Our use of that information is subject to your instructions, the Data Protection Act 1998 and our duty of confidentiality. Please note that our work for you may require us to give information to third parties such as expert witnesses and other professional advisers. You have a right of access under data protection legislation to the personal data that we hold about you.
We may sometimes ask other companies or people to carry out typing/photocopying/other work on our files to ensure this is done promptly. We always seek a confidentiality agreement with these outsourced providers. If you do not wish your file to be outsourced, please let us know as soon as possible.
We may from time to time send you information which we think might be of interest to you. If you do not wish to receive that information please notify our office in writing.
17. Governing law and jurisdiction
English and Welsh law governs terms of engagement and any dispute arising out of the terms will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts.
As this document is important, please keep it in a safe place for future reference.
We do hope that this document usefully deals with any immediate queries about the day-to-day handling of the matter and Sinclair Law Solicitors’ terms of business. If you have any queries, please do not hesitate in contacting us.
We look forward to hearing from you and of being of service to you.